This is a plane-effort—I was bored on the airplane going to the States, so I typed this up really fast while my Mom was snoozing and my grandmother snoring. Another cotton-candy story with a little romance and a bit of angst. This one is _not_ as ‘funny’ as "Mystery Notes" was—but I happen to think it’s kinda cute. So bear wit’ me! And it’s nowhere as serious as the title suggests.
This is one of those ‘five years after’ stories—but don’t even _think_ about the episodes where Kimberly left. In _this_ author’s opinion, they never happened, and someday we’ll all wake up and find out the Kat episodes are just another nightmare…
She lay drifting in a fog of dream and misty thoughs. Images of Dean Cain as both Superman and Clark Kent draping himself—improbably—over Terri Hatcher’s Lois Lane amused her. It would never happen, because then the series would probably end—but hey, it was nice to think about, no? If it did happen, she hoped Lois would choose Clark Kent over Superman—it was just too difficult to love a man with so much responsibility and pressure on him—
The phone blared loudly in her ears, jolting her out of the pleasant haze of dream and half-thought that was sleep. She rolled over and sat up suddenly, almost squishing the little black-and-brown Pomeranian lying beside her in a ball of fur. She startled the little creature into a black-and-brown state of confused awareness.
Kimberly Hart groaned, rolled over and stared at the digital clock with its flashing red numbers. 7:14? In the _morning_ On a _Saturday_? It had to be Tommy. No-one else was crazy enough to do something like that, except her former leader.
The chocolate-haired woman groaned and slammed her head back into the pillow. Just once, couldn’t the man just _once_--
Maxie leaped over her, tiny feet pounding into her back as he stepped onto her spine, and yapped helpfully at the ringing nuisance.
Well, there was nothing to it. She was awake.
She groped for the shrilling instrument, pushing the little living mop off to the side, and picked up the receiver.
"Tommy, it’s too early. Go back to sleep," she growled into the phone, her voice as graceful and mellifluous as if she’d been gargling with ground-up glass.
"Kim! How’d you know it was me?"
"You’re the only twenty-six-year-old I know nuts enough to do something like this. Not even _Rocky_ wakes up so early on a Saturday. What’s so urgent that you’re dragging sleepy women out of bed?"
"Listen, are you doing anything today?"
"I _was_ sleeping," Kim grumbled. Much as she hated the fact that he’d woken her up so early, she loved to hear his voice—especially first thing in the morning. Somehow, he always managed to sound so… nice.
"You aren’t anymore," he pointed out, his logic irrefutable. "I meant, did you have any _plans_ for today?"
"No, no, I hadn’t _planned_ to go anywhere today," she sighed, rolling over and narrowly missing pinning Maxie beneath her. The mop scrambled out of the way and started chewing on the phone cord. "Stop that!"
"Maxie chewing on the phone cord?"
"Yeah. One of these days, Tommy, I’m going to give him back to you, and _then_--"
"You’ll never do that," he quipped, "you love the hairball too much."
"Just you wait, Thomas James Oliver. Just you wait."
"Anyway, have you got a long, white dress? I don’t know about you, but _I’ve_ bought some clothes of other colors since we retired from the Rangers."
"Yes… in fact, I’ve got a nice ankle-length one that I bought last week." The Pom settled comfortably on the hollow of her stomach, and she twined her fingers through the long, soft hair as the dog sighed contentedly. "It’s not really the season for white, though. Why? Do you need an escort for some official function, or are we entertaining and re-charming some really formal aliens?"
Even six years after they’d driven off Lord Zedd, Rita and all their minions, aliens still came to pay homage to the original Earth Rangers. They’d retired after that—why stay when there was no need for them?—but still kept in touch: Adam, Rocky, Aisha, Billy, Kimberly and Tommy. Tommy and Kim were especially close, being the only ones who stayed in the same city. Both of them lived in Los Angeles—city of angels.
"No, I just wanted to make sure you could come to my wedding."
It took a few seconds for the words to sink in—but when they did, they hit hard.
"Your _WHAT_?" she sat up like a bolt of hot lightning, tumbling the dog onto the soft cotton sheets with a surprised whine.
"My wedding," he repeated. He was enjoying this, she could hear it in his tone and inflection, now that she was fully awake.
"You’re getting married. Today."
"Sure, Kim. Los Angeles is beautiful in September—and Lackey Mansion just happened to have an opening. Besides, you know how unpredictable my schedule is!"
She did. Tommy had risen in the office ranks _very_ quickly, and was now chief of police for the LAPD. He could be in one area one day, another the next—and no-one could really be sure where he was.
Well, actually, that was not altogether true. There was not one, but _two_ chiefs of police—and though Tommy was one of them, _she_ was the other.
Still partners, still fighters, after so many years. Though she couldn’t imagine how she’d gotten herself into position as the Los Angeles Police Department’s chief of police: sweet, tiny, pretty Kim. As a matter of fact, none of the officers who had ever met the two in person, and actually known who they were, could imagine how such an unlikely pair could have made it so high, so fast, and done so well.
"Heck, we could be handling an earthquake in the San Andreas Fault tomorrow! I figured I’d just… seize the day."
Kim rubbed her eyes and tried to sort out what she was hearing. "Let me get this straight. You’re getting married, today, and you want me to wear my white silk dress?"
"’Zactly right. The wedding’s around six—do you know where the Mansion is?"
"Tommy, I can’t wear white. I’ll show up…"
Somehow, the words ‘your fiancee’ refused to pass her lips.
"Misty’s wearing pink; don’t worry about it. C’mon, Kim, it’ll be _fun_! Besides, I can’t do it without you," he pleaded.
"I guess you couldn’t," she sighed. "Lackey Mansion? At six?"
"Could you be there at five-thirty?"
"Sure, not a problem," she muttered. Kim doubted that her friend could hear her sarcasm; she doubted he could hear much of anything past the hormones racing through his ears. Misty? As in Misty Barker, the beautiful young teacher who had moved into town a few years ago?
"Great! Thanks, Kim—I owe you one."
And with that, Thomas Oliver hung up the phone.
Kim regarded the thing calmly, then looked down at Maxie. The hairball looked right back up at her, inquiry in the brown gaze. "Misty. He’s marrying Misty."
Maxie barked, curling tiny little lips up in a disgusted expression that almost made Kim laugh.
"Yeah, I agree. At least it’s not someone named ‘Bambi’, or something like that. I mean, most teachers are pretty decent people."
She looked over at the clock, then at her neatly-organized closet, trying to remember where she’d left the white dress. Most of her clothes were, after all, pink, so it should be easy to find the white article… "Misty Oliver." She tried the name on her tongue, and decided she didn’t like it. "Misty."
Kimberly made a face, scrunching up her pretty features. Even years past, she still looked exactly the same: tiny, turned-up nose, big, caramel eyes, a slim chin and cheekbones, and a generous mouth. Her long, malt-brown hair flowed down her shoulders to her waist in a plentiful wave that was _much_ longer than it had been when she had been a Ranger. At least she didn’t need to worry about getting it caught in a helmet, anymore…
[Well, I guess I’m stuck with it. And with her. He _is_ my partner, after all.]
She tossed back the covers resignedly and stood up, wavering as the blood rushed to her feet. It was going to be a long day, and she wanted to make sure she could think clearly before she did anything at all.
* * * * * * *
Lackey Mansion was a huge, colonial-style home that had been built in the 1700’s, when hardwoods were still abundant and people went around in huge confections of lace and silk. Somehow, someone had managed to convert it into a catering and reception hall without losing the charm of the old-style house.
The matte black wrought-iron gates, twined in their images of firebirds and dragons—[That’s just _too_ ironic]—were already open, and Kim drove her pink Mazda Miata down the rugged cobblestones a _little_ too fast, jarring clenched teeth in a set jaw. As she parked, she noticed that there weren’t a lot of cars already parked in the bumpy pebble path, and walked up the set-gravel footway towards the huge, rich, oaken doors.
The lawns were beautifully, pleasantly landscaped: cultured apple trees were scattered at even intervals around the garden, many bearing ripe, fragrant fruit on their hard branches, while two sweet-scented grand pines framed the doorway. It was dignified—but homey. Kim could almost imagine children scrambling up an apple tree’s branches, vying for who could get the biggest, ripest fruit.
An utterly perfect place for a wedding.
Kim kept her cat’s-eye sunglasses on, and her mouth clamped tightly shut.
Once inside the airy, richly-appointed foyer, she plucked the glasses off her face and tucked them neatly inside her handbag, and looked around. It was plush without being showy, homey without being plain. A young, handsome blonde man in a flowing tuxedo, probably an usher of some sort, meandered over to her and asked pleasantly in a honey-sweet voice if he could help her.
"Yes… my name is Kimberly Hart… I was told that there was a wedding here, in about half an hour, is that correct? I’m a friend of the groom’s."
The usher appraised her, holding up an eyebrow. "Ah. Yes, right up the stairs, " he pointed gracefully to the huge, carpeted double flying staircases of warm oak behind him, "take the first door on the left. Then, follow the hall until you get to the Grand Ballroom… you can’t miss it. Mr. Oliver said that he was expecting you."
Then his expression turned pensive. "Miss, correct me if I’m wrong, but it seemed too much of a coincidence. You wouldn’t happen to be Ms. Hart, the head of the LAPD, would you?"
"Yes, I would," she answered, grinning as his eyes widened and he looked down on her—literally. He made an effort to be polite, and stop his staring, but Kimberly shook her head. "Don’t worry—Tommy and I have gotten a lot stranger reactions than yours. No-one expects the heads of the police department to be so… different."
"Tommy? I thought that the other head of the LAPD was Mr. James Oliver."
"Well, yes—his name is Thomas James. But I’ve called him Tommy since we were children, and I’m not about to stop anytime soon…"
The vivid blue eyes widened even more. "You mean… the man getting married upstairs is…"
"’Zactly right. My partner."
The usher shook his head. "Well. Who’d have thought. It was nice meeting you, Ms. Hart…"
"You, too, Mr…"
"Well, it was nice meeting you, Mr. Land," she turned towards the staircases.
"Just one question, Ms. Hart. Can you _really_ throw a man twice your size over your head?"
Kim turned back to him and grinned. "Care to try it?"
He beat a hasty retreat, and Kim started up the huge staircases.
Though talking with Don had been a nice respite from her own worries, they came back to her as soon as she started up the stairs.
The banisters were cherry, polished to a fine finish by loving hands, atop intricately-carved posts. Kim slid her hand up the smooth surface as she ascended. [Classy place, Tommy… does she have money? Is that it? Like you’re in any danger of going broke… and she’s a teacher, for goodness sakes.]
Kim scolded herself fiercely for having such uncharitable thoughts, but found that she was stomping her way up the carpeted stairs, anyway. Slowly, she made an effort to be kinder to the old wood under her feet.
The long hall, once she entered the ‘first door’, was skylit by huge bay windows every few feet. They were along the outside of the house, and the view of the gardens below was absolutely spectacular. Kim found herself envying the former owners of this house. Though the sight of such lush greenery would have ordinarily made her smile, today she found herself stalking along the thickly carpeted floor like a cat after prey. [The sooner I get through this, the sooner I can go home. And the sooner I meet… Misty, the sooner I can decide whether I’m gonna need a transfer to another division of the Los Angeles Emergencies Department.]
She had tried very, very hard all day not to think about what it would mean to her, and her relationship to Tommy, if he got married.
She hadn’t been very successful.
Don Land had been right—the ballroom was unmistakable. High, arched glass doors opened onto intimate little balcony coves, with amazing views of the large estate’s various gardens. Chandeliers dangling from the cathedral-like ceiling danced in the light, catching the late afternoon sun and tossing it in every direction, and every color. It made it look as if Tommy had invited the rainbow’s daughters to attend his wedding.
The room was partially sunken—the parquet floor extended about ten or fifteen feet straight out, where a long oval table stood at the edge, and the riser continued around the sides of the room like a horseshoe made for Zeus’ steed.
Three tables decorated either side of the room around the doorways, but the rest of the ballroom was sunken about two steps lower, giving the entrance the feel of a raised dais. More tables surrounded a wide, marble dance floor, leading to another raised platform, where several speakers and two control boards slumped beside a box of CD’s.
Pastel-pink tablecloths, rosebuds for centerpieces, fine china and crystal goblets… Kim wanted to throw up. Or smash something. Either would have made her feel much better.
Staff scurried around, dressed as impeccably as Don had been, tidying the tables and straightening the pink linens. However, there was no sign of Tommy or any of the guests. [Tommy, you’re not crazy enough to have me as the only witness…]
She whirled at the unfamiliar voice, hand immediately dropping to where her gun holster normally was. She relaxed only when she saw the head poking through the doorway.
The woman was tall—much taller than she, though that didn’t say much—and had long, blonde hair in a severe braid. She wore what Tommy had always called ‘librarian glasses’.
"I’m Rachel," she answered, coming out of the doorway and shutting the wooden door tightly behind her. "I’m James’ wedding coordinator. He told me YOU’D be here to help out."
[Wedding coordinator? Thought you were going to be ‘seizing the day’, Tommy!]
They closed the distance quickly, and grasped hands. Kim was instantly surprised by the strength of Rachel’s grip—just as Rachel was shocked that such a tiny woman could be Head of Police.
"I’d be happy to. Where do I start?"
The MAIN thing I’ll need you to DO, is usher guests. All of THIS was thrown together VERY quickly, so we didn’t have the TIME to make a proper seating chart."
Rachel turned to face the glittering, dancing room, gesturing as if she would conduct an orchestra, and Kim turned to take a look. "Now, this is a GOOD sized wedding, as weddings go—but James has asked me to scatter EVERYONE impartially. It’ll be UP to YOU to make sure that people from the same family DON’T group together. Please MAKE SURE that big groups—they happen at EVERY wedding—are encouraged to split up. Spread the friends EVERYWHERE."
Kim began to wonder why, on what was supposed to be the most meaningful, important, and special day of his life, her partner with the unnerving charisma that made him such a leader and the devilish streak that made him such a friend had chosen Darth Vader’s wife to handle his wedding.
"Now, James tells me you KNOW most of the guests, so I don’t have to MAKE a LIST of who can’t sit with who. I am COUNTING on you for this: we won’t have TIME to fix up mistakes, later."
Kim nodded, holding out the poker-face that she’d perfected over the years.
"By six, EVERYONE needs to be seated, because the meal will start PROMPTLY. I’ll be directing dinner from the back."
Kim tossed her eyes, pitying the kitchen staff.
"So all you have to do is DIRECT the guests to sit down properly, and have them seated by six. There are a FEW tables where NOBODY sits. Those are marked with a BLUE ribbon. Those are all RAISED tables." She waved stocky arms—[start the violins!]-- to indicate the tables on the risers. "I will take care of THOSE tables. Now, he's asked me to ask YOU to take a seat at the table on the CORNER, in front of the head table, so you don't have to run back and forth to your chair."
"Speaking of ‘him’, where _is_ Tommy?"
"You mean James? He’s in the BACK, and he’s BUSY." She flipped her head over to the direction of the door she’d come out of. "He won’t come out until the room is READY."
[Typical Tommy, and his theatrical entrances… a few years ago, it was somersaulting over the heads of Putties. Ah, my friend, when did we change?]
"And… Misty?" She was quite proud that, despite the strain, her voice didn’t break on the name. It only rose a bit.
"She and her girls are OUT of the way. You have NOTHING to worry about," Rachel clapped her meaty hand on Kim’s shoulder in what was probably meant to be a reassuring manner. "Now, I have to go back IN. But you BE SURE to take care of the guests!"
Kim nodded woodenly, and Rachel marched off to the side chamber she’d emerged from.
The former Pink Ranger turned to the ballroom, trying in vain to count tables. [Tommy, how many people could you possibly have invited on such a short notice? Did you take out an ad in the paper, or something? Send e-mail to everyone in alt.police.department and alt.Power-rangers? Run a commercial during X-files?]
Kim had gotten her estimate to be about two hundred before low voices, muffled by the carpet, alerted her to her new duties. She sighed deeply, steeled herself against the inevitable ‘_you’re_ Kimberly Hart?’ comments, pasted what she hoped was a professional smile on her face, and turned to greet Tommy’s guests.
[Tu me dois, Tommy,] she thought grimly, as she started making pleasantries with some of the guests she recognized. [Te morituri saluta. You owe me _big_ time, Tommy…]
* * * * * * *
Much to Kim’s open surprise, the room filled to almost its full capacity in the following thirty minutes. A few of the tables on the riser were still empty, but since they were marked with ‘the BLUE ribbon’, she decided that RACHEL would worry about them. She sat with a few of her fellow LAPD cops who were friends—if she was going to endure this farce, there was NO way she was going to endure it alone. And since her partner was… uh… indisposed…
She surveyed the room to make sure everyone was seated, and then took her own, plushly-cushioned chair. As she toyed with her water glass of crystal, she idly wondered what Tommy would be wearing.
[Not white, that’s for sure—not even _he’s_ that crazy. Wait… I know he owns a black tux. Maybe he’ll wear one of those tux t-shirts under that tuxedo jacket,] she smiled unconsciously. [Who knows, maybe he’ll wear one in green… because they don’t make them in Ranger colors…]
That would be very like Tommy, following his instincts instead of what tradition—or any mandates of fashion, for that matter—dictated.
[He’ll probably wear Converse sneakers instead of black shoes,] she snickered. [Now _that_, I can appreciate… like the time when we once went to this big LAPD function in jeans and sweatshirts…]
Kim suddenly wondered if Misty could appreciate these aspects of Tommy. She probably didn’t even _know_ his old nickname, and called him ‘James’ as most of Los Angeles did. She wondered if she could possibly like the little things about him: the way he sometimes considered things to be more important than going by the book, by the rules.
His friends were one of those things.
Kim wondered how well Tommy could possibly know this woman if he’d never even mentioned her to his partner and friend.
[Why _should_ he mention her? I mean, doesn’t he have a right to a private life?] she chided herself. [Does he _have_ to share everything with you? He’s told you his secrets, his deepest fears, and greatest dreams. Isn’t that enough? You can _both_ be pretty closed-mouthed, gal. _You_ don’t tell him everything. And who’s to say he’d have told you even if you’d asked?]
Yet the tightness in her chest had not eased.
[You’re making a mistake, Tommy,] Kim thought, though she was entirely unsure about how much of that was objective observation, and how much hot emotion.
"These seats taken?"
She was startled out of her reverie by a deep, booming, authoratively familiar voice. Her jaw dropped—but she grinned as she saw who it was.
"I only know one guy built like a bear, with a voice to match. Jason? I had no idea you were coming… please, sit down!"
She stood to throw herself in a hug at Jason Lee Scott, former Red Ranger, and old friend.
"Was this a surprise for you, too, Kim?" he asked, pulling out a chair for his…
"Trini?" she gasped, staring with huge eyes at her old best friend. The golden-skinned, raven-haired kung-fu artist was still as beautiful as she’d been when she left—but now, she seemed to glow from within, eyes bright with happiness and smile permanently lingering around her lips.
And no wonder: Trini was at least six months pregnant.
"Meet my wife, Trini Lee Scott," Jason teased, seeing the shocked expression on her face. "And our baby."
Trini giggled, still as girlish as she’d been when she’d left, nine years past. "Don’t look so surprised, Kim," she chided softly. "You knew it would happen—I think all of us girls did, one way or another."
"Really?" Kim queried, fascinated. "Like what?"
"Well, Aisha married Rocky last year… Adam’s _still_ going out with Tanya, poor shy boy…"
Trini noted the haunted look crossing Kim’s eyes, and dropped the subject.
"Anyway," Kim went out quickly, "I never saw it coming."
That, at least, was all honesty.
The DJ—[wait a minute, that’s Zach!]—who had appeared at a quarter to six, suddenly turned on his speakers and started the music, a sprightly classical piece she didn’t know. Kim took a last sip of ice water, told the butterflies in her stomach to go f__k off, and stood to face Tommy and his bride.
Tommy was indeed wearing a tux, with long tails and a proper shirt and jacket, and shined, gleaming dress shoes. His still-long hair—something which the high honchos in the police department had been trying to get him to get rid of for years—tumbled around his shoulders in an arranged, silken, chocolate-brown wave…
He looked great.
Rachel followed, hovering over him protectively, and Kim had to giggle when she realized just _how_ tall Rachel was: she was taller even than Kim’s six-foot-two partner!
But as the ladies emerged, Kim’s eyes were locked on them.
They were dressed in light pink, as promised, though the tightly scrunched bodices of satin and wide, layered skirts were hardly flattering to _any_ of them. Two of them wore their hair up in identical French twists, without a single hair straying from the severe hairstyle. And the third…
Kim’s stomach lurched and her artificial smile faltered. This had to be Misty.
She wasn’t tall, as compared to Tommy or Rachel, but she was about model-height—the height that Kim had always wished _she_ was. Long, beautifully black hair hung in a straight waterfall over her back, much as Trini’s had, and hers shone as if it had been oiled. Misty was busty, but well-proportioned rather than anemic; she probably worked out. Wide and friendly brown eyes, much like Kim’s own, a petite nose, and a generous mouth with subtle pecan lipstick.
Not a beauty queen, but an ordinary pretty-looking woman—not lovely enough to despise, but not homely enough to pity, either. She smiled and waved to the applauding crowd, grinning a happy smile that showed a set of perfect, white teeth.
[For this? For her, Plain Jane, Ordinary Alice? It would be alright if she was drop-dead gorgeous, but for _her_ you’re giving up--]
She clamped down on the poisonous thought before it could worm its way out of her mind. Still, Kim kept clapping her hands and smiling woodenly at Tommy, who grinned back, tossing his thick hair over his shoulder and standing at the head table. Somehow, she fought to keep her emotions from showing as Misty sauntered over to Tommy and kissed him on the cheek, tiptoing. [I hope I don’t have an ulcer by the end of tonight…] Her back already hurt from the ramrod-straight position she was forcing it into.
And suddenly, all three women reversed direction and sat down at the ribboned tables on the left-hand rise.
The applause faltered, Kim’s included, and then stopped eventually as people followed the progress of the tall woman with much confusion. Why was Tommy’s bride sitting at another table? It didn’t make any sense. Murmurs echoing loudly around the room despite the carpet confirmed her suspicions: no-one _else_ knew what was going on, either. Well, leave it to Tommy to confuse people at his own wedding…
She locked her gaze on the raven-haired woman, memorizing every painful detail as she’d been trained to do as a cop. Self-assured walk, short, shiny nails, easygoing, nonchalant laugh, fresh haircut… makeup a little too thick, though…
"I’d like to thank all of you for coming," Tommy spoke into the microphone set at the head table for just that purpose, though she knew from experience that he could easily shout loud enough to be heard all over the room. Kim whirled, belatedly realizing that she had been staring at Misty quite rudely. "I knew the notice was a little short… but hey, that’s the life of a police chief. I really appreciate it that everyone made the effort, though… so enjoy dinner. I hear the food here is outstanding."
More applause, and he sat down. Rachel immediately began whispering things in his ear again.
Kim, Trini and Jason exchanged looks of abject bafflement as they took their seats. What kind of wedding was this?
"Did he have the ceremony already?" Jason queried.
"I haven’t got the slightest idea," Kim answered, slowly and hesitantly. A smile lit up her face, bright with mischief. "But with the Dragon Lady up there, I don’t think we’re gonna get the chance to ask him."
Trini giggled, glancing up at Rachel towering over Tommy.
"I think you’re right," she replied, nodding.
The waiters materialized with the salad.
Kim couldn’t eat much. Between trying to ignore the burning of pain in her stomach, the lance of…jealousy?… in her chest, and twisting her head around to steal glances of the woman in the corner, she could only manage to coax down a few leaves of lettuce. The people beside her made conversation with the Lee Scotts, and left her alone after a few polite inquiries.
Trini frowned. [We were all so sure that Kim would end up with Tommy—and it looks like we should have been right, from the way Kim’s acting…]
[I wish I understood what was going on, old friend,] Kim thought across the room, to where handsome Tommy was docilely munching on a lettuce leaf and a carrot, [I wish you’d confided in me. I’m only your partner, after all…]
But if she’d known, would it have made this day any easier? Would a month of anticipation lessened the feeling of dread that overwhelmed her?
Not long after the salad dishes were cleared, Tommy stood up and lifted the mike again.
"I know this is… uh… just a _little_ strange," he began, and was met by a wave of laughter and a shout of ‘too true!" He quirked his mouth up into a half-grin, and continued. "But please bear with me. This is going to be the weirdest wedding you’ve ever been to, from the guy who’s probably the weirdest head of the LAPD you’ve ever met… ‘cause I haven’t asked the bride, yet."
Kim’s jaw dropped. Surprised voices echoed through the room behind her, and Jason shook his head. "Trust Tommy to pull a stunt like this," he muttered softly.
Tommy put down the mike, then went around the table and down the steps, heading for the far tables on the left riser. The tables where Misty and her entourage were sitting.
As he passed her chair, the limited supply of almost-used-up patience abruptly ran out, and she called out to him unthinkingly, "Tommy, what the Hell is going on?"
He glanced over his shoulder, long, dark hair glowing in the dancing light, and laughed at her comment as he half-jogged across the floor towards the three woman in their layered tulle dresses. After a few steps, he stopped, appearing to be unable to decide whether he should go answer his friend’s question, or ask Misty to marry him.
Tommy turned back, and hurried over to where Kim sat.
"So, Kim, how’m I doing?" he queried, grinning at her and crouching next to her chair companionably.
"I think you’re utterly nuts."
"That good, huh?"
She leaned forward and spoke in a stage whisper, "I wish you’d tell me what the Hell you’re up to… a surprise wedding?"
"I told you, Kimmy," he used her old nickname, "I wanted to seize the day. You, of all people, know how it’s impossible to say where in LA we’ll be next! I just knew we’d be here, this weekend," he explained in the same, soft voice.
She repressed the urge to strangle him with his impeccably tied bow tie. Somehow, she found it _so_ annoying that he looked so bloody good: his hair loose and brushed silken, clothes ironed and pressed, the way he smiled so happily…
"You wake me up at 7:30 in the morning, to tell me you’re getting married TODAY, but I’ve never even heard of the woman before!"
"Sure you have!"
[Oh, right. I’m the one who told him when she came to town,] the dispassionate part of her mind supplied.
[Oh, go DIE,] she told it, a childish moue echoing within her voice.
"You somehow manage to get close to two hundred people to come to a wedding on something like two day’s notice, AND arrange one of the best, most expensive reception halls in the area on a _prime weekend_?"
"I know a man who knows a man… people owe me favors, Kim."
"Cut the bull$#!^, Tommy… you owe _me_ a favor—you owe me an explanation, here!" Even as she terminated the easy banter, she mourned that she might never hear it again. "What the heck are you trying to do?" she lowered her voice, so that only he could hear it. "You weren’t even this reckless as a Ranger! How can you—how can you marry someone you hardly spend any time with? You’re hardly a lovestruck schoolboy anymore, Tommy…you’ve been burned before, you know what it’s like, you—you—how can you—how—"
She stopped before confusion and babbling threw her into dangerous waters.
"I arranged this without asking, ‘cause I knew she’d say yes," came the soft reply. "And I spend _plenty_ of time with her. We’re always together!"
He sounded like he was debating the existence of aliens—a personal joke between the two of them. They _both_ knew aliens existed. He was talking in the same bantering tone that he used with those people who told him they didn’t…
Kim wanted to smack him and make him take this seriously.
And she suddenly realized she didn’t know that much of him, besides what she’d learned as a teenager and what she knew of him from work. It was probably the perfect truth that he knew Misty very well, and they were always together.
Strange, though… Kim never remembered having enough free time…
"I don’t believe you’d—Tommy, who’d put up with you?" It came out much harsher than she’d intended, and she winced. Tommy _was_ her best friend, after all… but as long as she had his ear, she might as well continue. "You’re never around. Emergencies keep you dashing around the city at a moment’s notice—despite the fact that you’re supposed to direct everything from a safe police office—and you’re always injured from chasing after moonbeams!"
He lowered his voice even further, and his grin got wider, flashing white teeth. "Amazing how well Power Ranger recuperative abilities still work, eh?"
He _still_ wasn’t taking her seriously.
"Tommy, if anyone ever knew about your background… you’ve had enough psychological trauma for an entire chapter in the DSM-IV!"
Tommy displayed his heart-stopping smile at her, and his hazel eyes glistened with mischief. "I had no idea you thought so highly of me, Kim! A whole chapter?"
[Dammit! He’s in too much of a good mood to take me seriously!]
"Tommy… who would… who could you find to understand you? To… to share you with the LAPD…. and the Rangers…" she took a deep, searing breath. "And with me?"
He looked at her, the smile gone from his face. A single eyebrow raised. "Who said anything about sharing?"
[So that’s how it is,] was the first shocked thought that came to Kim’s mind. She stared at him, and felt her heart ripping apart in her chest as thoroughly as if he’d torn it in half. And in a way, he had.
"I don’t believe this," she almost spat, shocked. "You have really gone over the deep end this time, Tommy…"
Her mind continued the riposte even though her mouth couldn’t go on. [It’s a pity I _didn’t_ bring my gun, Tommy… I could have put you out of your misery. And then her. And then myself before anyone had time to react. I can just imagine the headlines… "Officer Hart kills Officer Oliver, fiancee and self at latter’s wedding…"]
Tommy’s expression turned serious. "Kim, I _wouldn’t_ marry someone who couldn’t accept me for what I am. I wouldn’t marry someone I didn’t spend any time with, or someone who couldn’t accept my work in the LAPD—and you, my partner. But I found someone, Kim. I found someone who will ‘put up with’ all of that. She’s brilliant, and she’s beautiful, and Kim, I love her more than my life."
His voice was soft and gentle, loving, and his eyes faraway. Kim closed her own, hiding the suspicious glimmer beneath eyelids with lashes almost as long as Tommy’s. She didn’t want him to see the start of tears in her eyes. She wanted him to think she was happy for him. [Just slit my throat, Tommy. Quick and clean. Don’t turn the knife and make me suffer…]
"Then I hope… you’re very happy together," she spoke up, the barest whimper.
A warm, gentle hand closed around hers. She shrank from it infinitesimally—it was not hers to hold.
"I think that we will be, Kim. I think that we will be."
The small talk around the room had died, slowly. Silence hung in the huge ballroom, as though time itself had held its breath to see the outcome of their conversation.
[I have to end this,] Kim realized. That was probably what Tommy had been waiting for. She took a deep breath, opened her eyes, and looked at her partner, dry-eyed and supernaturally calm. She was going to request a transfer, and soon—but for now, she was going to wish him well. No regrets. Get it done, clean break.
"Then go ask her, and go marry her."
Tommy hesitated, and stood up. Kim felt her heart bleed anew. "I would…" he began, slowly, eyes glinting. "But I’m still waiting for a ‘yes’."
He smiled at her, sweet hazel eyes piercing her very soul.
She sat, watching him, wondering what he was waiting for. Why hadn’t he let her go and gone over to Misty’s table, yet? Every moment she saw him standing there, so tall, handsome, valiant, sweet and gentle as only she knew he could be, it took more to keep her from breaking down. As it was, it took all she had to keep from shattering into hysteria.
She barely heard his words.
And then the full import of them hit her, harder than any monster could have. She felt her muscles tense and her pupils grow wide, enveloping the chocolate brown of her eyes. For a second, the dim roaring in her ears obscured everything but her pounding heartbeat.
"You…" she gasped out, against the huge blockage in her throat. "You want to marry me?" she squeaked, finally.
He nodded vigorously, the hopeful expression on his face almost making her smile.
A frantic voice in her head began to yammer ridiculous objections. "But—but Tommy… my mother—the others—they’re not here!"
"Sure they are!" he grinned cheerily, waving a hand in the direction of the right side of the room, which had been previously empty. She turned to see Cynthia Hart-Gaultier, her stepfather Pierre… and, miracle of miracles, all the Rangers. Kim stared, her mind stuck, but her heart, healed and whole and no longer dripping blood, began to soar.
Tommy pulled her up to her feet, with no resistance at all from her, and led her up to the main dais as time began its ebb and flow again, and the room burst into applause.
Behind the table was a beaming Rachel, flashing partially-crooked teeth, and an elderly man in a long, white habit.
"Are we ready?" he queried in a soft, rich bass voice that reverbrated smoothly around her, shaking back an unruly lock of white hair.
"We’re ready," a deep voice spoke behind her. Kim looked behind herself to see that Jason had followed them up the dais, and was holding a ring box.
"You knew—" she began weakly. Jason just smiled, and winked at her solemnly.
"Ready here!" sang out a gentle soprano. Kim turned back to see the lovely Misty, holding a small bouquet of beautiful pink and white roses, standing next to Tommy with a second box.
"Who _are_ you?" she finally managed to get out, not believing that she was _talking_ to the woman who, scant seconds before, she’d thought Tommy was going to marry.
"I’m Misty—short for Mistaya. My brother was Tommy’s classmate in college, and he called me in for a favor. My sisters and I run a bridal shop on the side, when I’m not teaching, and he asked us to do the formal-wear, flowers and other knick-knacks," she informed Kim cheerfully.
"She’s the maid of honor," Tommy informed Kim ruefully. "I called Trini—but then I found out she was married to Jason. Aisha’s with Rocky, Tanya didn’t really know you all that well… Kat’s here with her husband, too. And I obviously couldn’t have _you_ in that position," he grinned at her, good-naturedly, and she suddenly found the strength to smile back. "And Jason’s the man of honor."
"Best maid and man of honor?" she repeated dubiously.
"Don’t ask. You’ve never tried throwing together a bridal party in a week, Kim," he quipped. "I managed to get hold of all of our old friends… but I really didn’t know many of yours, now… so I just invited the officers you seem to hang out with the most."
"Aside from you," she managed to retort.
"Aside from me," he agreed, smiling and nodding.
"Are we ready, now?" the priest asked, cocking his head.
"I… think so," Kim murmured faintly, feeling slightly dizzy from all the excitement and the to-and-fro bustle.
Tommy just smiled enigmatically, and bounced on the tips of his toes. Then winced. "Ow. Remind me not to do that again in dress shoes, would you, Kim?"
The ceremony was mostly a blur, but Kim did notice that the platinum and gold wedding band that Tommy slipped on her finger with a gentle, gentle look that made her insides turn to molten gold was a perfect fit, and made of intertwined Celtic knots. [How did he know my ring size…? Never mind.]
"…you may kiss the bride," the priest intoned, smiling happily.
Kim lifted her face to Tommy’s, filled with joy, and he swept her up in his arms and brushed his lips against hers, delicately. She was the one who wrapped her arms around his neck, and pressed into him harder, as applause and cheers roared around them.
Husband and wife.
* * * * * * *
Later on, after the congratulations, and the dancing, and the marvelous three-tiered cake with the white-chocolate icing—a piece of which Kim had obligingly smashed into Tommy’s face, he led her out onto one of the balconies, overlooking a small pond over which the bright lights echoed.
"This is incredible," she sighed, mind still caught up in a whirlpool of wonder and surprise. "I can’t believe you actually did this."
"Believe it, beautiful, because it _is_ the truth," he whispered softly in her ear from behind her, arms wrapped gently around her as if he was afraid that she would mist away.
Together, they watched the play of moonlight across the golden-white surface of the pond. Suddenly, something occurred to her. "How long is this party going to go on?"
Another breathy chuckle. "Until dawn."
She smiled. "Think they’ll miss us for a few hours?"
"Not if we leave them with enough champagne… and those who _do_ notice will probably be smart enough to figure it out, and not say anything."
"Like Jase, and Trini, and all the other Rangers. Damn, Kim, but that was a hard time in our lives—but if we hadn’t had that…"
"We wouldn’t have what we do now," she finished his thought, tilting her head back to lean against his shoulder. She wondered if she could snuggle with him in public… well, not at work, at least—they couldn’t be accused of giving each other the jobs they had, because only select few knew that they had _met_ before joining the LAPD. She marvelled that she could snuggle with him at _all_.
"You know, I rented the whole house for today," he informed her, thoughtfully.
Kim gaped, an idea drifting to mind. Was _he_ thinking what _she_ was thinking? "The… _whole_ house?"
"Including the upper floors," he affirmed.
She twisted around in his arms to face him—or at least his chest. She leaned against his firm muscles, listening to the gentle thump of his heartbeat under her ears. "And would those upper floors have… bedrooms?" she queried, wondering suddenly at where this audacity had come from.
"With locks on the doors," came the soft tickle of a whisper. "So we can… have a little time to ourselves for…"
She grinned, suddenly, white teeth glowing in the moonlight. "Fraternization?" she suggested mischeivously. Electric thrills ran down her spine from where Tommy’s hands were holding her—and just beginning to slide up and down her back in a gentle caress.
Dared she believe in this dream? Would she wake up soon to her alarm and Maxie’s cold nose, alone in bed once more?
Holding hands tightly, they slipped out of the ballroom—ninja talents didn’t wear off _that_ soon!—like new shadows, and through a side exit. A pair of dark eyes caught them sneaking outwards—but Jason Lee Scott just shook his head and smiled, looking towards his wife with fondness and love in his eyes.
Though doors lined the hallways liberally, Tommy seemed to know exactly where he was going.
He grabbed the golden handle of one wooden door, and opened it, leading to another spiral staircase. "After you, m’lady," he gestured, with a small bow, at the wood that glowed in the gentle lamplight coming from the top of the stairs.
She smiled and started to skitter up the stairs, holding her silken white dress up.
Two flights up, the stairwell opened into yet another hallway, this one lined with red and gold carpet and hung with colorful tapestries. Oil lamps burned in sconces on the wall, casting flaxen shadows over everything.
Tommy led her to a set of wide, oaken double doors, and grasped the doorknob firmly. But she noticed that the hand she held was trembling slightly, and he looked at her quietly. "Are you sure you want this, Kim?" the words spilled out of his lips.
She tiptoed, and placed a kiss on his mouth. "Of course," she whispered.
He opened the door, revealing what must have been the original master bedroom of the entire Mansion.
Kim gaped, and spent a few minutes ‘ooh’ing and ‘ahh’ing over the rich tapestries and beautiful paintings hanging over the walls, the silk-covered furniture, the enourmous four-poster bed…
Champagne rested in a silver ice bucket beside the bed. Tommy had obviously prepared for this. There was nothing more to keep her—it was time to face her partner, her friend, her husband.
Tommy shrugged off his jacket and swung it over the edge of the couch as she closed the heavy, old drapes. They turned to study each other. Alone for the first time, in the privacy of a room, they could only stand and stare at one another, like—ironically enough—teenagers on a first date.
Shyly, Kim came to him, feeling tiny and awkward against his tall grace, and slid her arms around him. Tommy hugged her back, chuckling gently with relief.
"How did you know that I loved you?" she murmured into his chest and his embrace. "I don’t think I gave you any signs…"
"You didn’t," he admitted, ruefully. "It made it a lot harder. I _didn’t_ know until just now. But I was hoping… and I took a chance."
Kim gasped out at his audacity, that he would play so fast and loose with such high stakes. "What would you have done, Tommy… if I’d said no?"
He cocked his head at her, long—damp—hair (after the cake incident, he’d washed it out a bit) falling over his shoulders. "Hoped that one of the bigger pieces of my broken heart would pierce something vital, and put me out of my misery," he admitted.
"Tommy, be serious!"
"I am," he told her, with all gravity.
And hope became reality as they kissed, his tongue gently touching her lips, letting all their hidden dreams come forward as the gamble paid off at last.
Author's Note: For those of you who were concerned about the gravity of the title, don’t be. Of the eight Christian sacraments, the first four are considered the most important: baptism, reconcilliation, communion, confirmation, and… guess what? Marriage!